Saved by a Remodel

Designer helps expand a home for growing Montclair family.


For Ann and Dave Sinclair, moving wasn't an option. They expanded and spend most of their time hanging out in their new kitchen.

Photo by Ramona d'Viola

When you love where you live but your house is a tight fit, you have two choices: move or expand. For Montclair residents Dave and Ann Sinclair, the former meant leaving Oakland, a scenario they quickly ruled out.

“We absolutely love living in Oakland,” Ann said. “My husband and I both lived here as children. My mom used to take our family to Fentons and Fairyland. We knew what a great city it was to raise kids in. Our roots are here.”

The Sinclairs—Dave, a financial services executive, and Ann, a public affairs consultant—moved back to the Bay Area from Washington, D.C., settling in San Francisco for three years before getting married and purchasing their Montclair home in 2000.

“When we bought, it was just the two of us,” Ann recalled. “Then, we had three kids in six years, and quickly outgrew the space. At one point, we had all our children—two boys and a girl—sharing one bedroom. It was pretty tight,”

After exploring the possibility of moving to Piedmont or beyond the Caldecott Tunnel, the Sinclairs decided to stay put and expand on their home.

“We’re walking distance to Montclair Village,” Ann said. “We have a nice community of friends. Our hearts were not into moving. We decided to stay here and remodel.”

The couple’s 1,612-square-foot home was divided into odd, small spaces, and a large, sloping backyard was largely unclaimed. The house would need a partial demolition to add a second floor and expand its footprint to include a new kitchen, family room, and patio. As timing would have it, neighbors leaving on a six-month sabbatical offered the Sinclairs their home during construction, and that was exactly the amount of time required to complete the project.

“We had absolutely no wiggle room on the return date, so it was imperative the project be completed upon our neighbor’s return,” Dave said.

To help them navigate the remodeling, the Sinclairs turned to Lafayette-based interior designer Nicole Benveniste, who worked with contractor Marius Adamache and architect Lorin Hill to keep the project on schedule.

“There were a lot of moving parts and an inflexible completion date,” Benveniste said. “My first task was to create a timeframe within the construction schedule.”

The second part of the plan is where the fun would begin. Benveniste researched and sourced materials, finalized floor plans and layout, and assisted the Sinclairs in creating a cheerful, family-friendly environment big enough to accommodate children, friends, and extended family for generations to come.

A large island anchors the newly designed kitchen space and provides ample room for food prep, informal meals, homework, or a leisurely read with a cup of coffee. Custom-built maple cabinetry surrounds gourmet-worthy stainless steel appliances, topped with Caesar Stone countertops and Heath Ceramics tiles in cool blues.

“Our old kitchen was so small it was challenging to cook for more than just our family, so we didn’t entertain that often,” Ann said. “Now we basically live in our kitchen and great room. It’s where the kids do their homework, and we cook dinner here every night. It’s been fun to host holiday and family parties and have room for our large, extended family.”

In the living room opposite the kitchen, two prints, one of San Francisco’s iconic St. Mary’s Cathedral and the other of the City’s Maritime Museum, set the color palette for the entire home. The cool blues and bright greens of the artwork enliven the room and appear in accent pieces and objets d’art. These prints also hold special meaning because the couple married at the cathedral and celebrated their union at the museum.

The family room is defined by a comfortable sofa and playful area rug in cool blues and unexpected greens. A pair of soft, leather side chairs in ocean-inspired colors provide options for reading or relaxing in the sun-filled room.

Just off the family room, an expansive patio with dining area, outdoor grill, lounge deck and a bocce ball court built into the hillside, perfectly integrates indoor/outdoor life for the Bay Area’s nearly perfect, year-round weather.

“Remodeling our home was really stressful,” Ann said. “We were so lucky to find Nicole. She guided us and helped with the decision-making process. Her input was invaluable. She helped us create the home we imagined. Working with the right designer made the process much more manageable.”


The Details

Interior Design: Nicole Benveniste Interior Design

Contractor: Marius Construction

Architect: Lorin Hill